(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

i kind of have the hots for Sanseverino ...

I drove to Angoulême last night for the Fête de Metisses ... I guess the best way to describe it is a 'world' music festival ... It was staged along the banks of a river at the Parc Bourgines. In addition to music, there were a large variety of food stands with delicious ethnic cuisine, and loads of performers ... drummers, gymnasts, dancers, etc.

I had debated on whether to go ... it is on all week-end but last night Sanseverino was the headliner. I tried to buy tickets online, unsuccessfully, and so then couldn't decide if I should drive there (I'm about an hour from Angoulême) and I am completely unfamiliar with the city, having only been to the train station and even then, Jean-Yves took me.

So anyway, back and forth back and forth, and then I decided what the hell, the worst that would happen is it would be sold out and I'd still knock around the festival. I was kind of tired, having worked most of the day ... but I bucked up, showered-up and went for it.

Well, first of all let me say that Angoulême was way bigger than I knew, probably 3 times the size I imagined! It is nothing short of a miracle that I found the place. But, contrary to other bloggers I've read, making one's way around in France is fairly simple if one just 'breathes' and applies a little common sense. I didn't have a detailed map but I had gone on Google and looked at the position of the park relative to where I'd be entering the city ... and jotted down some of the main roads' names. And public places and directions towards them are always very well indicated in cities. So I just followed the signs where I saw Bourgines and eventually, concert promoters had also installed signs for the event and I made it there easily.

And once there, I not only was able to get a ticket ... but instead of 34 euros it was 23 euros. Online it had been noted that 23 euros would be available for students, unemployed and a variety of other categories which did not apply to me. But that is still what I was charged ! yay!

I had time to eat before the concert started and there was a great meal on offer adjacent to where the concert was. the 10 euro repas was a delicious fried fish filet with ragouille sauce (kind of like the african version of salsa), curried beans, white rice and pineapple for dessert. Washed down with a 2euro beer, it was terrific! oh and there was also french bread and a bottled water included. !

While I ate, I watched a group of african tumblers perform along with drummers. these guys were gymnasts who did the whole pyramid forming thingy ... as well as african dance ... quite entertaining!!

there were three acts on Friday's main show ... the first was a rock guitarist with an african musician who played a variety of instruments which I have no idea about ... but produced extremely danceable music! 2nd up was Rosenberg Trio (they are manouche style guitarists, in the genre of Django Reinhardt, well 2 guitarists and a bass player) ... also amazing and with a large following. Final act was my crush, Sanseverino . (that link coincidentally presents Sanseverino along with one of the Rosenberg brothers ... !)

I've seen (and written about) him once before. Jean-Yves took me and Johnelle and we had the most amazing 3rd row seats in a smaller, more intimate venue. Last night there were about three times as many people. And the set up was a huge open area adjacent to the stage, with stadium style seating in the back, raised ... not benches though (thank god) but chairs)... I got a seat in the first row of the stadium seating, which was far more comfortable but less 'view-worthy'.

Each act was on for at least an hour, including encores!!! I had forgotten how long concerts in France can go on. If you are going to see the main act, never assume the openers will only be on a short while. My experience is each act has a following and gets a considerable amount of performance time in AND encores.

The concert began at 8:30. It was after 11:00 before Sanseverino was introduced. He was just as amazing as the first time. and yes, I descended from my perch, got close to the stage and danced and drooled.

Must be something about Italian frenchmen these days. They really get me going. meeeeeerrrrraaawwwwwwwRRRRRRR!!!


Monday, May 25, 2009


figured I'd better get something going about my trip to meet Notre Vie Juteuse et sa mari before I go there again (maybe in the coming week)!

Alisa and Bruce kindly invited me over for a vist, WITH chiens, week-end before last ... and being on and off in the doldrums a bit (actually, maybe mostly just a little lonely some nights and week-ends ... ha) I accepted.

The drive was lovely and it was interesting to ride for great stretches of time and see nothing but trees and valleys. I think I mentioned it ... a lot of France's countryside is very rural and sparsely populated. but it was very pretty and my hosts met me at a tiny hamlet so I could follow them home.

They live in the countryside without neighbors nearby and it did seem a hike to arrive. They have rented a pretty country house, with pool, and have set up shop with bikes, their two dogs, adopted cats and chickens (although the chickens have since moved on ... read Alisa's blog for the scoop).

It was heartwarming just to sit and hang out with friendly folks ... from my perspective, we clicked and had a lot to comfortably chat about. I felt like old friends, having braved similar experiences ... I marvelled at how far we've come in the less than a year its been since we began corresponding.

I arrived with my tortilla press and masa (!) and we cooked together ... which I always enjoy. Alisa whipped up her famous chicken under a brick (only under a very heavy pan) which comes out amazingly tender, juicy and with a sumptuous crispy skin. We had that, guacamole, homemade tortillas and gobs of red wine.

The next morning, Bruce arose and made coffee and then popped out for some of the biggest croissants I've encountered. NO LIE - these suckers were the equivalent of 2 normal sized croissants. AND they were delish.

We spent the day explorin, visiting their favorite village (now added to MY list of favorite villages), St. Antonin. Pictures just mostly don't do these charming villages justice. St. Antonin embraces the river Aveyron ... with pretty little bridges, quirky winding alleys that empty onto oddly shaped places (plazas) and a variety of architecture capturing the epochs the village has existed. One thing (of many) that was interesting ... the Batiments de France brigade has left St. Antonin alone, I spied lavender and chartreuse shutters ... none of those boring 3 color palettes here. We had a lazy day ... there was a vide-grenier on and we dawdled our way through ... I picked up a few treasures and Bruce visited widely with many of the vendors. It was a cool approach --- the townsfolk used their street level garages or sidewalks to place their items for sale so you got a peek into many of the houses, which was fun.

Later Saturday evening, we went to a birthday party for one of their friends. In another petite village, the party made its way up and down a narrow street in the front of the birthday boy's house. One fellow was in charge of a huge paella pan (kind of like a paella BBQ) and it made enough to eventually serve the many guests.

Sunday was another vide-grenier day ( we hit two) and it was fun to check out other villages and pick up a few more things. We finished up with a nice lunch in St. Antonin and then I headed off for home.

My dog Louis had a grand old time when I decided to experiment with reactions to the chickens. His animal instinct raged to the surface and if I hadn't have been so quick ... he would have had a chicken dinner. We saw the blood lust in his beady little eyes! the coop sat up on the hill ... and every time he went outside he tried to nonchalantly wander that way.

All of the dogs got on well ... it was a relief to go to dog-people's house ... they were so cool and laid back about the 4-legged visitors.

Well, I'm probably headed back soon for another quick visit. I hope I get to host them (at least for the day) before they head off for California in August...and I'm crossing all available digits that their dreams become reality and they return for a new life. I'd love to have such great new friends nearby ... what luck!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

new photos are up!

well folks, I've been working my fanny off and have been pretty worn out. Got some new photos up on flickr (check box in sidebar) and more to take...today is the start of a long holiday week-end here, everything is closed today ... I'll be in the atelier working on the windows.

I will take some photos of those ... finally recharged my camera ... the project has been tedious but will save us a lot of money and I've learned another new thing! The windows have forged iron frames (I think my previous owner made them), they are quite rare now so we want to save them. Once the work I described earlier is done, I will be painting them a Bordeaux red (the frames). et voila!

My project list for the week-end, in addition to the windows ... is to garden and possibly strip my kitchen floors and finish painting the bathroom and hit some vide-greniers on Sunday and vacuum and mop my stairway and upstairs and ... well, the list is long long long!

all of this will fall by the wayside if I get a call from Bruce and Alisa to hop on over to look at some of their potential projects!

more to tell you soon, including my visit to l'Aveyron, a fun music night with Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby in Perigueux and adventures with the prefecture!

Friday, May 15, 2009

coming in for a landing.

what a week. what a month. what a year... HA!

well, about the week. after all of the previous ruckus, we got down to business Thursday and Friday and put in two amazingly productive and satisfying days.

Wednesday was a bust. It is usually our least productive day because it is a half-day and JY spends the afternoon with his son. So no big projects are ever scheduled then. Couple that with another rollercoaster bump for monsieur with the ex and I was the productive one. Tuesday we had made a list of materials and we were planning to venture to Perigueux Wednesday morning to buy them. After he was unable to do so, I decided to go for it. I went and retrieved the list and then we ended up dawdling a bit... (ha, quelle surprise!) and when I looked at the clock it was 11am. ZUT! BricoDepot closes at noon for 2 hours and everyone is unceremoniously dumped in the parking lot ... tough luck for you! JY says - eh, 30 minutes there and 30 minutes for the list - ça suffit!

I drove like the proverbial bat and got there at 11:40! Merde! I had no intention of trying to converse in French or translate anything; I grabbed a Brico boy and surrendered the list. Even so, I had to phone JY three times. Miraculously, I got out of there with everything! we're talking, meters and meters of electrical cable, 'interrupteurs' and 'prises' and 'boites des receptions' et 'porcelaine' et et et !

Come Thursday we were able to commence work with everything so that was amazing! In the atelier are really magnificent windows, hand forged metal with long narrow panes about 2 meters high. (Check out my flickr box to see) The sad news is that many of the panes must be removed (broken) and nearly all of the putty stuff (mastik) holding them in needs to be replaced. This is a job for Michelangelo! the putty is old and dry and hard as nails. It has to be coaxed out with a hammer and chisel, all the while taking care not to break the windows that are good. but it ALL must be removed so that the new stuff will adhere properly. Three quarters of one wall has these windows. what can I say. it will be good for my arm muscle definition, no?!

JY has been installing a new electrical system. I'm trying not to drive him too crazy on it; but I've insisted we think of the future and avoid rework. So we have enough light and electrical supply for an operating room! bwahahahaaaaa!

We quickly returned to our lovely rhythm, we laugh and joke and work our butts off, all the while the iPod or his cassette player (don't get me started) is keeping us entertained. We have the same taste in music as well as having introduced each other to new sounds. So we always have something in the background. If we don't, you know we are in a not so good period. Today we listened to Sarah Vaughn, Louise Attaque, Aretha, Amy Winehouse, Otis Redding, Jacques Brel, Sanseverino, Pink Martini, Carla Bruni, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, to name a few.

Thursday we ventured into town for lunch. JY asked me what I felt like, and I said whatever - just something good. Well we decided to try a new place and we spent 26Euros and it was shit. really. a crap buffet cart for the entree (there was some questionable charcuterie, cubed beets and rapee, and some weird pea salad) and the plat du jour was overdry chicken and powdered potatoes. The wine was good. what a disappointment!

Today I made lunch. It ROCKED the house! Ha! I made a spicy lemongrass fish curry with veggies and rice. We also had Boursault cheese and bread, and the most amazing strawberries from the Perigord, finished up with coffee and chocolate. No wine, but we started with a rum aperitif and radishes picked the moment before from my garden. man, was it good.

then back to work! finished up with a chat about a trip we are planning to Thailand the beginning of the year. we'll see, one thing I know about this life is that it can change in an instant.

but for now, je suis contente. and trés fatiguée. So I'm off for a hot bath. after which I may upload a few new photos of everything for your viewing pleasure.

Next up, I've just GOT to tell you about my fun trip to the Aveyron to meet Notre Vie Juteuse and her husband. It was such a blast, I do wish we lived closer than a 3 hour drive ... but I can't wait to go again and the countryside is lovely.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


my life is like ... a rollercoaster, baby baby. my life is like ... oo, ooh, oo oo!

you'll have to do with that since I couldn't find the play-a-vision button and none of you ever watch those YouTube videos, now do you? DO you? (just in case, I might throw one in here...)

so. I have had a hell of a few weeks. I've been up and down and over and out ... and I know one thing! (yes I guess this is a musically influenced post, it is shaping up that way...) (( in fact, my writing has always been that way. I sit down and see what transpires, just run with it. that applies to non-fiction and fiction equally! no wonder there have been so many times when I've totally lost the plot ... hmmm .... ))

but anyway. each time I find myself laying ... flat on my face ... I pick myself up and get - back in the race!!! that's MY life. My motto has always been, 'keep showing up'. sometimes it takes me a spell longer than others.

I also confess that I can overreact. every twist, every turn seems so life-altering. this I think is due to my severe case of arrested development. you know how WE know so many teenagers do really stupid shit like kill themselves because they think that life will not evolve? that this is THE most important thing that will ever occur, and they just cannot go on.

well, I've had a touch of that all my life. part of it is because so much really awful shit happened to me before the age of 21 and I think it imprinted me for life. I mean, like all those impressions of bad things and bad people led me to expect rinse and repeat ... and probably those expectations helped me attract that reality.

ok, enough with channeling dr. phil

for once in my f'g life ... some ups and downs have not led to my expected finality. they have just been ups and downs. but a fun, gut wrenching ride.

We have amended our plan for a full on restaurant to capitalize on everything we have completed thus far and incorporate some of the temporary projects we were considering. So, we are looking to have a really cool atelier with a salon du thé and bijouterie (jewelry, accessories, gifts). There is considerably less red tape with this approach, we don't have to do a full kitchen etc. and have all the materials pretty much ready to stage. Maybe a week or 2 of work to finish the space and we can probably be open by the end of June.

This means (hopefully) a small income stream that can build ... and we can then complete the restaurant plans in winter and open that in Spring!

So it wasn't a flake out. And how insulting of me to have even gone there, given everything that Jean Yves has done for me and with me to date. I wish I could find the way to purge myself of my dubious past .... sigh.

but I'm back in the queue for my next ride! bring it on, life, bring it ON!

Friday, May 8, 2009

mindless rambles ... uncertain conclusion

I've written a little about wars and their different impacts ... particularly contrasting French and American realities...

as I was driving to NotreVie's in the Aveyron yesterday ... which meant driving west to east for 3 hours through amazingly green, hilly, peaceful and sparsely populated lands ... my mind wandered and wondered at the lack of people here ... and really throughout France.

Of COURSE there are people. It just seems that a land that has been here so long ... so rich in history and beauty and consequence ... should be more densely populated.

and then I started reflecting on the heavy price her people have paid, most recently in the last century ... when it comes to war. I questioned (in my head of course because who else do I ever have to talk to? well okay there IS Louis and Bruno and they WERE in the car with me ... but no, it was in my head) whether the loss of nearly an entire generation of men in the first world war has had a lasting impact on France's overall population. and made a note to follow up on the query soon. what do you guys think?

yeah you'd have to be here I guess to understand what I mean about the lack of people and populace. and it could just be my impression. but it is more than just being a little slower. and even when I go to the cities, which is where the younger generation has shifted to ... in contrast to other great cities I've been (NY, LA, Nairobi, SF, Mexico City, Madrid, Milan ... a few) ... there just is not the same density. I did find an interesting piece in wikipedia on French demographics that confirm a large dip in population pre-WWII, but also points out that France's baby boom surpassed other nations and was even referred to as France's "miracle". but not so much that it got them far beyond a recovery stage in terms of population!

so ... I'll get back to you on that with more. But since this is a week-end of war remembrance in France, I let my mind wander in a topical manner. If my ruminations are substantiated, it seems appropriate to remember how devastating and profound man's inhumanity to each other can truly be. May 8th is Victory Day in France. Normally I'd crack wise about what really WAS the victory to be had. frankly I think the French have achieved a victory of sorts through their heavy losses of the century. I admire their solemn determination in avoiding war and its costs. One thing that rankled me in the states were the constant references to French cowardice when it comes to war. Common sense is what I'd call it. sigh.

and while I benefit from the graceful greens, the solitude and beauty of these undulating hillsides ... the peaceful habitude... I'll also give a care to the price that was paid for them.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

bloggess summit ...

well okay. maybe bloggess visit.

I'm excited to be driving to visit Notre Vie Juteuse et sa mari in the Aveyron this week-end.

That makes another blogger willing to help me shake my blues (Amy Rigby has done so in the past ... )

I've realized I need to invest a little more time in building community here if I am to survive. Thus far, my year has been absorbed with house renovation and then straight in to atelier renovation ... which means my life has nearly completely centered around that and a large percentage has also been focused with my partner for completing those efforts. I haven't had much social balance and I think that has also heightened the effect(s) of any changes with that primary relationship I've formed. I really don't want to get into all of the various complications this could potentially create.

Suffice it to say, I need to mix it up a little more. and that might shake up ALL the puzzle pieces and help them fall more easily into place.

or not. who the hell knows?!

one thing is for certain, I still feel pretty rudderless in comparison to my control freak existence in the U.S. Some days I am good with the ambiguity. others it is crushing.

I'm sure there are lessons in all of this for me. until I've grasped them, there is always red wine and JM Rhum.

and blogger visits! yay! Notre Vie and hubby have graciously offered to host me and the doggy fellas for a couple of nights! there's even a party on Saturday that I can attend! yay again! keep your digits crossed for us that this pretty weather holds ...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

she lives.

yes, I'm here ... been going through some ups and downs and sideways...no excuse for not blogging except sometimes you just don't feel like talking.

JY had some life turbulence last week which set us back plus the one week of school vacation ... the reality is we can't see a way clear to get our café open this season. What with the logistics of inspections and paperwork, and the remaining renovations ... we probably wouldn't be open until August or later. in the meantime, the small matter of income looms ... so, we have begun to formulate plan 'b' which means continuing to work on the space, creating some side work for ourselves ... and being ready to open with a bang next season.

I'm disappointed for several reasons ... one, it is hard to adjust when you have something so firmly wrought in your head. and a routine created around that. but one must adjust. so one will. my hope is that we don't get too sidetracked as is wont to happen in these situations...

well. there is of course so much more to the story. but I'm a bit too down to relay it all at the moment...

on a happier note, the sun shines. we have a week of good spring weather facing us. hopefully the garden will take advantage of it.

more soon.